Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Comedy Night


I guess I don't have a choice, I have to try this game.
Comedy Night is a “game” created by Lighthouse Games Studio and released on August 13th 2012. Lighthouse Games Studio is actually quite prolific on the Indie Game Marketplace, with at least eleven games listed on their website. When I saw Comedy Night I was immediately curious as it claims to be a venue for people seeking out new comedians and a place for aspiring comedians to practice their craft from the safety and comfort of their own home. How does this translate to an Xbox Live Indie game?

Are those avatars having fun? I... I can't tell...
Let’s start with the sound and music. The music is horrible and goofy, and I was glad to see that I could turn it off. You can also supplement your own music via an in-game menu, which is nice, but I fail to even see the purpose of music since it’s going to drown out the “comedians” you’ll be listening to. There are very few sounds in the game, such as a buzzer noise when people attempt to vote someone off stage or cricket noises that can be generated by the audience.

Next up is the graphics. They are simple and feature player’s Xbox Avatars, which I really like. There’s also not much to look at because you’ll spend most the time sitting in the same club watching people perform on a stage. I feel like a variety of venues would’ve been a nice addition.

Just wait, a squeaker* is going to come in here and ruin everything.
And now on to the actual meat of the “game”. You can either be an audience member or a performer. When you perform you can pick from three different show types: clean amateur shows, mature amateur shows, and professional shows. In the amateur shows up to two people can perform simultaneously. The audience is allowed to vote them off if they choose to do so. There are also a slew of options for expressing your avatar’s level of interest in the show, from cheering to booing to yawning. You can also talk through your mic, but audience chat can be disabled if you choose so. You’re freely allowed to switch between audience member and performer if a spot is available on stage. In a professional show only one person is allowed on stage and they cannot be voted off.

What this often boils down to is an eclectic group of people sitting together and taking part in a themed voice chat room. At its worst the room is chaotic and can often be dominated by one annoying person who refuses to stop talking. Often times this same annoying person will spout racists, misogynistic, homophobic non-sense ad-nauseum, making it feel like you’re playing popular online shooters without the shooting. Other times there will be players on stage who will say nothing, and then when you start heckling them to tell some jokes, usually they’ll throw up their hands in exasperation and say “Why don’t you tell some jokes then?!” I have no aspirations to be a comedian, but at one point I took the stage and told dead baby jokes until I got sick of doing so. This was entertaining to the people in the audience, but it was honestly the first time I had heard actual jokes being told. Every other time people just said random offensive things in an attempt to be funny, such as the time one player entered the room and made fun of everyone because he thought this was funny. A female player entered the room and he harassed her to great extent until he was removed from the room.

It was at this point that "WeedzKillaz42069" informed everyone that they were a collective bunch of "faggots".
Comedy Night is an interesting experiment, but that’s about it. It does a good job of what it sets out to do, which is to provide a virtual venue for aspiring comedians to perform and an audience they can perform in front of. It’s unfortunate that the majority of the participating audience is often comprised of children without self control and young adults full of social ineptitude. I think Comedy Night is interesting for what it is, and for only 80MS points you’re not taking a huge risk. If you’re interested in something like this I would suggest at least supporting the developers, because I would like to see them make another game like this with some expanded options so that we can at least vote to kick fellow audience members, and maybe allow us to make our own profiles that other players could vote up or down, so that we can at least have vested interest in performing.

* - Squeaker - a very young person found on voice chat programs with a high pitched, squeaky voice

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

New update for Minecraft on the way?

I was a bit confused when I check out Major Nelson's blog post today, because this is what I saw:


What is that? A Minecraft update? But one just came out! They're being really productive lately! Hooray! I wonder if they're add in enchanting or experience or cauldrons! Or books! I.... wait... wait a second. Why is this under the category of "Avatar"?

Oh. I get it. They're not releasing a new update for Minecraft, they're releasing some more Avatar items that correspond to the most recent update. So, uh, I guess we're getting some... villagers? And maybe a... creative mode? For our Avatars? And some melons?

Great. Thanks guys.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Dungeons of Desolation

Yeah! Swords and Maces! And Luck! And...  intense feelings of despair?



Are you ready for another rogue-like? I sure was when I picked up Dungeons of Desolation on the XBL Indie Market when it was released on October 25th 2012. It was made by OnlyLuck Interactive, the team behind another XBL Indie game, Corrupted. How does it fare compared to the other rogue-likes that can be found on the Xbox?

In general, if it moves, it must die.

Let’s start with the graphics and sound. The game has a simplistic cartoony style of graphics. Your character actually changes in appearance as you put on different types of weapons and armor, something I really appreciate because you can actually see your character getting stronger as he wears different types of equipment. The enemies are colorful and distinguishable, save for a few that I couldn't discern what I was looking at until I saw their names. The music is non-intrusive, and the sound effects in the game serve their purpose.

So many skills... I'm going to turn into a skill dragon and LEARN THEM ALL!

Unlike many rogue-likes, who 
simply offer equipment as a means to level up, Dungeons of Desolation gives you two skill points when you level up that you can spend however you want between four different skill trees. There’s Combat, for all things melee related, Black Magic, for the pyromaniac in you, White Magic, so you can heal yourself, and Grey Magic, and utility school of magic focused around buffing yourself and getting around the dungeon. There’s a lot to pick from, and for anyone who likes to micromanage a characters skills, this is a lot of fun. There’s also a robust amount of equipment options.

Linen Shoes of Haste. They're like dungeon Chuck Taylors!

The game comes with two modes of difficulty. I started with a melee character on “Normal” and died multiple times. Whenever I died Death spun a wheel to determine what my death penalty was, be it loosing experience, gold, both, or receiving a temporary de-buff.  Later I started another character on “Hardcore” where if your character dies, they stay dead in true rogue-like. This didn’t really seem to have any effect on the actual difficulty of the game. I created a black magic centric character, and managed to get him to level fourteen. On this second play through the game was actually pretty easy. Thankfully you can save the game and pick it up later, which I will continue to do so.

In summation, this is a very good rogue-like, albeit a bit on the easy side. If you’re a new fan of the genre, or you’re just interested in trying out a game like this, I would highly recommend Dungeons of Desolation due to its less punishing difficulty. Even if you’re a veteran of the genre, the expansive skill system is fun and interesting. At only 80MS points, you’re only spending a dollar on the game, and if I can’t convince you I at least urge you to try out the demo. Dungeons of Desolation is a great rogue-like for the Xbox, and should not be passed up.


Friday, October 26, 2012

FTL




How ominous.

FTL (Short for Faster Than Light) is a game created by Subset Games and released on September 14th 2012. FTL is a game where you command a ship called “The Kestrel” by default, flying through the galaxy and trying to avoid a group of Rebels who’re hell bent on taking you out due to some crucial information you’re carrying. It is a space travel rogue-like, and has been compared to the old game Star Command. Is FTL a fun and engaging rouge-like?

Hey guys, how're you coming with that fire? Wait, you're just spreading it? I... I don't think that's what I asked you to do...


The graphics of FTL serve their purpose well. The ships are normally brightly colored, and the back rounds accurately reflect the dark recess of space. Ship to ship combat is displayed simply, with your ship on the left side of the screen and the enemy’s on the right. Sometimes you’ll warp into an area with a special condition, which you’ll easily be able to identify by the location’s background. Examples include warping into a purple space storm area, which temporarily knocks out your sensory equipment, or warping too close to a star and being subjected to solar flares, which will lower your shields or damage your ship if the shields aren’t up.


The music in the game serves its purpose. It is not obnoxious, but it’s also not particularly memorable. The sound effects in the game also serve their purpose well, but I would like it if the ship made more annoying emergency noises to indicate that you’re in danger. I think it would add a little cheesy sci-fi trope that many fans of the genre would appreciate.

Can't we just nuke them from space, just to be sure?
The game play is centered around choosing from locations to travel to that are in your immediate vicinity. When you arrive in the new area, various events occur. You could find a fleeing ship who needs assistance, an abandoned space freighter full of supplies, or a passing pirate who wants you to hand over one of your crew members. When you get in combat, which is frequent, you’ll need to prioritize which sections of the enemy’s ship you want to take out. Attack their weapons system so they can’t fight back, or take out their shield so they go down faster? Destroy their life support so all the people inside the ship run out of oxygen, or take out their drone control system so that annoying drone stops shooting at you?



Take that, space pirates! OH GOD WE'RE ON FIRE AGAIN!
But the same rules apply to yourself, and enemies will frequently use the same tactics against you. This is where your crew members come in handy. You can assign each individual person to a certain room, which will slowly raise their experience levels with that system type, providing certain bonuses as they become more experienced at that station. Enemies will sometimes board your ship and start attacking your crew members, which you will eventually have the ability to do yourself. The rooms can also be repaired as they take damage and their systems go down. The hull of the ship cannot be repaired by crew members, but you can find shops and stations throughout the game that will offer this service.



Yay, upgrades! It's like candy for nerds.
You can also upgrade different aspects of your ship, like increasing the ships power reserve, or increasing its available shields or weapons systems, using the materials you pick up from downed ships and special events. You can also buy new ship systems at the shops located around the galaxy, like a drone command station or stealth capabilities. You can also find new crew members, which can be from one of the seven different races contained within the game. Some weapons will require the use of missiles, of which you only have a limited amount of. Missiles will usually be able to pass through enemy shields, making them useful when you need to quickly take out a certain part of a ship. Run out of missiles and you’ll find yourself relying entirely on your energy weapons, which must take down a shield before being able to score direct hits.


Overall FTL is a really fun space rogue-like. It has the same frustrating tropes normally found in this genre, but the game has an easy mode if you want to take the edge of the intense frustration that is often found when finding your hands at the mercy of an unfortunate random event. As you play the game you can unlock different ship designs, and Subset games advertise that you can download user created ship schematics, allowing you to fly through the galaxy as a ship from Star Trek or other popular science fiction shows. The game currently retails for 9.99 and be purchased through Steam or their website. I recommend this game to anyone who enjoys rogue-likes and is comfortable with games that have a steep initial learning curve.


Thursday, October 25, 2012

Kingdom of Loathing Halloween Event



For anyone who's interested, the internet browser game Kingdom of Loathing is currently in the midst of a Halloween event. It looks like it's a community collaborative effort to obtain a spooooooky message by way of non-combat adventures that reveal a tiny bit of the message each time you get it.



If you've never played Kingdom of Loathing before, try it out! It's a fun single player RPG with some multiplayer aspects. I've been playing it since 2005. The game comes out with a monthly "Item of the Month" which I'll be reviewing in the future when the next one comes out. I'll also post about community events like the current one as they happen.

Also, if you send me an in-game message (My user ID is - Kittenthateatbabies) I'll send you a "bonus content" package that will include some in-game items that provide you with bonus content from Item of the Months that were released in the past. They won't make the game easier for you, just give you some additional content to experience.


I would also be happy to answer most questions, but in general you can find all your answers on the Kingdom of Loathing Wiki, so if you ask me about something I may just point you to a page there. In most cases, they can answer your question far better than I can.

Have fun!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The Binding of Isaac


I would probably curl up and cry in the situation too. Not gonna lie.


Yes! Laser beams! They make everything better!
Binding of Isaac is a game made by Edmund McMillen (Of Team Meat) and Florian Himsl and released on Steam on September 28th 2011. The way you would describe this game is a Zelda dungeon rogue-like with loose biblical themes. They have since released an expansion for the game entitled Wrath of the Lamb. With such a weird sounding description, is this game any good?


Let’s get the plot out of the way. The plot of the game is  based around the biblical tale of the same name, the Binding of Isaac. A parent is asked by God to sacrifice their son in His name. This is translated into the game through Isaac’s mother, who sits around watching evangelical programming and believes she is one day commanded by God to sacrifice Isaac. Isaac finds a trap door in his room, jumps in, and so the game begins. There’s really no other plot beyond that. Get to the end of the level and beat the boss who waits for you there.

The graphics for this game are very good and cartoon like. One of my favorite features of the game is that Isaac’s image will change as you collect the different items. He’ll start out as his normal, teary eyed self, but eventually transform into something twisted and deranged looking. The enemy design is also disturbing. You have segmented jumping worms, vagina monsters who shoot deadly streams of blood, and sad children with heads bloated with flies to name a few.


The gameplay is a cross between old Nintendo Zelda style dungeons, procedural generated rogue-like dungeons, and bullet hell SHMUPS. Isaac starts out with the ability to shoot out tears which can be upgraded and altered by collecting items found throughout the dungeon.You can also find rechargeable items, trinkets, health upgrades, pills, stat upgrades, tarot cards, bombs, keys, and coins. All of which is randomly generated. This means that sometimes you’ll have a game where you’ll struggle through it, some games where you’ll find yourself challenged, and other games where you’re extremely over powered and everything is a breeze. This gives the game a LOT of replay-ability.

This is a simple shop, yet there's so much bizarre stuff going on here. The shop keeper hung himself, and is that... is that a ghost baby with you?!

OH GOD WHAT ARE THOSE?!
The music for this game is also great. It’s haunting and scary and sets the mood of the game perfectly. I would even say it’s memorable. When I think about it, I have trouble coming up with a game recently that I loved the music for, something that was a pretty frequent occurrence when I was younger. So either my tastes have changed, or we just don’t get games with music this good like we used to.

Overall I do not hesitate suggesting this to people. Right now you can get it on Steam for 4.99 and the Wrath of the Lamb expansion for 2.99. That’s awfully cheap compared to full releases that come out now a days. The content of the game is mature, so keep that in mind. If you can look past that, or just love things that are really messed up and weird (I do!) then go out and get this game! Support the developers so we can either get another one, another game from them, or even an Binding of Isaac 2!

Still unsure? Try out demo on Newgrounds!



Monday, October 22, 2012

March to the Moon



This looks like a trip worth taking.

                March to the Moon is an XBL Indie game released on August 31st 2012 by Califer Games. It’s a top down shooter with some RPG elements. There are twelve different classes from which you can pick from, and when you level up enough you can pick a secondary class, or choose to stay with the one you already picked. How does this game stand up to others in the SHMUP genre?

                I’ll start with the two things I didn’t like about the game. Number one is the graphics. I can appreciate simple, retro styled graphics, but that’s not what this game has. It looks like most of the graphics were created in MSPaint and imported into the game. Normally I don’t like to hark on a game for graphics, but sometimes I had difficulty reading the on screen text. And the graphics are just downright silly otherwise. I would like to point out that on their website for the game, the art is awesome. I wonder why that wasn’t put into the game?

Ah rats. I'm going to burn a lot of you to death.

                Also, the music. Oh god, the music. It has one song that plays on a loop throughout the entire game, and while it starts out inoffensive… I eventually found it stuck in my head, and not in a good way. I still hum it to myself sometimes without even realizing it. I guess what I’m trying to say is that I got sick of the one song in the game. But I did a few power sessions where I just played the game straight for several hours at a time… maybe that was my fault. But a few more songs for variety would’ve alleviated this.

                Now onto what I loved. I love RPGs, so when I started this game up and was presented with twelve classes to pick from, I got excited. I created characters with combinations of all the classes so I could find out what they were all like. I eventually went with a fire/arrow character, because it turned out to be easy mode. You gain three skill points as you level up, and at level 8 you pick your second class. Then you distribute your stat points between many different types of skills.

Which was a machine that produced rats. Like a pile of rags.

                The game has three different levels of difficulty that unlock as you beat the game. It gets progressively harder on the high difficulties, and dependant on how you built your character, the game can either be really easy or really tough. Using my fire/arrow character as an example, I put all of my points into the skills that made my main fireball/arrow attacks stronger. I could shoot multiple projectiles of each type. By the end of the last difficulty I was shooting nine fireballs and nine arrows, which took out everything on the screen, most of the time.

                You can also customize your character with different options that you unlock throughout the game. You can change your character’s look at any time. This has no intrinsic effect on your characters stats.

AHAHAHAAHAAHAAHAA! I'M BURNING EVERYTHING!

                If you can get past the graphics, and just use your own music, this game is awesome. I really hope they make a second one, or at least someone makes something similar to this. It left me wanting more, and I would gladly pay to get more. Even if they didn’t change the graphics and produced a “second campaign” with more classes and character options, I would still get it. If you’re a fan of indie games and SHMUPS, for only 80 MS Points, this is a great deal.



Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Super Amazing Wagon Adventure




                SuperAmazing Wagon Adventure is an XBL Indie game released on July 6th 2012 by sparcevector. SAWA suffers from the same thing a lot of indie games suffer from. First of all, look at the name. What kind of game do you think you’d be playing if you played SAWA? It better be a pretty damn awesome Wagon adventure. The XBL Indie game description states that it’s a fast paced 2D action game with a random story. This leaves the buyer wondering “What the heck am I getting if play this game?” At least, that’s the way I felt. The images on XBL don’t explain as much as I’d like either. So, what is SAWA, and is it good?

                SAWA turns out to be a side scrolling 2D SHMUP where you have to make a choice at certain points in the game. Either choice leads takes you on different paths, which isn’t always the same. Ford the river or try to have your Wagon jump it? Sometimes if you ford it, you’ll cross the river. Or you end up on an underwater adventure. Jump and you’ll just make it. Or you’ll fly into space. This is one thing I loved, the random and ridiculous situations you’d find yourself in.
SPAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAACE!

                Though the game has many crazy situations you’ll find yourself in, you can tell by playing the game that it is heavily inspired by Oregon Trail. You have three characters who each have their own independent health, that diminishes as you take damage. When a character runs out of health, you lose that character forever, often to a gruesome death. You can also find different weapon upgrades as you play the game such as firing hawks that return and dinosaur eggs that explode into baby pterodactyls. In addition you can unlock new wagons, that each have different unique abilities, such as starting with extra health, a weapon upgrade, or moving faster.
I bet this is what the Oregon Trail was really like anyway. Driving your wagon into a herd of stampeding buffalo while you fired upon them with your machine gun.

                The graphics are pixilated and retro. The music also reminds me of an old video game. I really loved how upbeat and fun the music was, which was one of the reasons I bought the game. I sat there, after I completed the demo, needing more.
She's going to go in there and get violated by giant poisonous snakes. OR FIND TREASURE! Snakes be damned!

                So, does Super Amazing Wagon Adventure provide what its name advertises? Yes, of course it does! Go pick it up! It’s sparcevector’s first game, and at only 80MSP, there’s really no reason you shouldn’t be flying through space on your dinosaur wagon dodging asteroids and unloading shotgun pellets into said asteroids RIGHT NOW!

Monday, October 15, 2012

City Tuesday




               CityTuesday is an Xbox Live Indie Game released on September 8th, 2012 created by Return To Adventure Mountain. Its description bills it as a “an open world platformer game about the last five minutes before a terrorist attack. You play a man who has become stuck reliving those five minutes before the disaster.” City Tuesday is also a puzzle game, but this isn’t mentioned in the short description for the game. So, how is this platformer/puzzler?

                 The first several levels are a tutorial of sorts. The objective is often to acquire a bomb before a specified amount of time runs out. Sometimes this is a straight forward objective like take the bomb out of the trash. As the games progress the objective gets more complex, like jolt the machines when people use them to get coins to give to musicians so there’s a distraction that the terrorist will use to plant a bomb and leave so you can then grab said bomb.
Watch out for the person in the red sweater that you met in the 3rd grade. They'll break your heart one day.

                Once you get through the “tutorial” levels, you presented with one large city level that you need to explore and find the bombs in a five minute time limit. You can speed up the progression of time but you can’t slow it down or reverse it. If you run out of time the world explodes and you restart the city scenario. Along the way you can interact with people who give you a bit of information about what’s going on with them, but doesn’t really do anything otherwise. Rarely will you gather useful information about how to solve a puzzle you’re currently working on from these people.

                Graphically the game is made up of simple backgrounds that are populated with stick people. The graphics are crisp and clear, and serve their purpose well. I really liked the initial screens where it shows a guy at the top with a bomb and a whole crowd below him fleeing in terror.
Here's a cross section of people going about their day. If you cut the New York Subway system in half, this is actually what you'd see. You also have to remove all the necks of everyone.

                The sound does its job, and that’s about it. The music is appropriately haunting, and the sound effects aren’t obnoxious.
Tabitha acquire her pretend degree at the fake Ohio State University.  This information totally has relevance  to what's going on in this scenario.

                Overall I would suggest at least trying to the demo for this game. It’s a fun and interesting puzzle adventure game, and I found myself not being overwhelmed by any of the puzzles. It’s on the short side though, and I would’ve liked a more robust city with more bombs to find. I really liked one of the puzzles that required you to follow someone around and figure out how to get the bomb that they inadvertently carried and would’ve liked more of that. For 80 MS Points, it’s a good ADD distraction satisfier, and I hope to see a second one that’s much bigger. An expanded inventory so that you could pick up, use, and combine items would’ve given it an adventure game layer. A big, deep complex city could really take this game off.


Friday, October 12, 2012

Asura's Wrath




                So very recently I received Asura’s Wrath in the mail, but had gotten Borderlands 2 that same day. Borderlands 2 took precedence, because I had been waiting for it ever since it was annouced. When I finally got around to playing Asura’s Wrath, I was really impressed with what I saw. This game didn’t sell well enough, or so I’ve read, but I think it’s easy to identify the problems with it.

Fighting with six arms is so much cooler than two.

                I got lucky with Asura’s Wrath, because it’s actually the first game of its type I’ve ever played. It’s more like an anime with video game sequences interspersed between scenes. The video game sequences are composed of fighting enemies to build up your burst gauge and quick time events. It sounds simplistic, and it is, but I feel like it works with what they’re trying to do very well.

                Once you fill up your burst gauge and activate it, the fighting sequence ends and you perform QT events. Sometimes it leads to another fighting sequence, other times it continues the plot. I really appreciated the brisk pace at which the game advances. I think I only failed one sequence, so there was no back tracking or repeating events.
One of many quick time events in the game. Quick, do something with the control sticks while the guy on screen gets his ass kicked!


                I’m not one to normally praise a game for its graphics, but I loved the graphics of this game. With the bright, cartoonish looking colors I was always impressed, and felt like I was playing an animated movie. I loved the character design too. They really approached the Uncanny Valley here with a few characters, but it wasn’t distracting over all.

                I love the story. This reminded me of a better version of Dragon Ball Z, which I loved when I was younger, but was deeply flawed. This contains a lot of anime tropes and stereotypes, but it’s different enough that I wasn’t groaning or rolling my eyes.

Yes, that is a sword going through Asura's mid-section. What you can't see is that this sword is longer than a planet, and he eventually punches it out of him. Yes, this is something that really happens in the game.

                I strongly recommend trying this out, but go into it knowing that this a volume of anime with video game sequences put into it. I haven’t watched any anime for a long time, but here I am, really enjoying this game and wanting to see more. I’m pretty sure I’ll get the DLC at some point too.

                Are there any other games out there like this? I would definitely try another one out. I hope that someone else takes a shot at this, and makes sure to market it for what it is. I think it’s good to be clear and concise about what your product is. In a this generation of video games it can sometimes be hard to distinguish between games. I do feel like Capcom should’ve been more upfront and honest about what this game was instead of just trying to say it’s an “Action, Beat-‘em Up”. Sure, that’s part of the game, but when you leave it at that, gamers are going to be very frustrated and confused by what this is when you’re only play a few minutes of game play sandwiched between several minutes of story.
The most biggest and most scariest of vaginas, the planet vagina.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Spelunky




So, I have a confession to make. It’s about the game Spelunky, which I absolutely love. I first played it way back in 2009, when the developer, Derek Yu, was posting messages about it on the forums for TIGSource. He was asking for feedback for the game from the community. I fell in love the first time I played it. Then, on July 4th of 2012, an enhanced version of the game was released on the XBLA. I downloaded and relived my glory days of the game when I played it on the PC.

                But there’s one huge problem. I suck at this game. So much. But I keep playing it because I still love the game, no matter how hard it is or how much I suck.
See that explosion? It's one of many things that will end your life. So will that bat. That crate may have a live bomb in it! Also, sometimes the gold is actually a monster. Just kidding! Or am I?


                First of all, the game is set in a mine dungeon that is randomly generated every time you play. It plays a lot like Super Mario Brothers. You can run, jump, attack with your whip, throw some bombs, and deploy a rope. The game is split up into different areas, which each have four levels. So think of it like this. Area 1 has four levels, the mine shaft section. Area 2 has four levels, the jungle… mine… shaft. I wish I could tell you what’s beyond that.

                Another aspect of this game is that you collect treasure to amass money, which you can use in stores to buy items. You can also find items in treasure chests and crates, or by sacrificing the girl (Or dog or body builder) to Khali. That’s right, most levels have a person you can save, who will give you an extra life if you bring them to the exit, after you beat the stage. I prefer saving the pug, and I always feel bad when I accidentally get him killed, which happens a lot.
This is a picture of someone who is about to sacrifice a woman to their dark god in exchange for an item. If that worked in real life, I would lose everyone I love.

There are only so many items in the game but they’re randomly generated as to which ones you’ll find in the store or in chest and crates. Almost all the items are pretty straight forward. There’s spring boots that make you jump higher. Spike shoes that do more damage when you jump on an enemy. A shotgun. Glue to make your bombs sticky, and so on.
This is a picture of the in-game manual. It will not kill you, but it does feature colorful pictures of all the things that, at some point, will end your life. Oh skeleton. I'm so glad you make me afraid to approach skulls.

                There’s also several different enemy types. Bats, skeletons, snakes, acid spitting snakes, spiders, giant spiders, cave men, evil plants, and exploding frogs to name a few.  The enemies all have specific attack patterns, which are easy to recognize and learn. There are also environmental hazards, like arrow traps, spike traps, bomb crates, long drops that cause damage, spider webs.

                So you’re essentially running through a randomly generated dungeon, collecting items and treasure while saving puppies, all while trying to avoid so many monsters and traps. If you spend too much time in anyone level a giant ghost will chase and murder you. It can get very frantic and chaotic, and the game requires you to be careful and fast at the same time. Sometimes you get lucky and find lots of money, or just a lot of items. I consider the best set up to be lots of sticky bombs, the shotgun, the jetpack, the spring boots, and the climbing glove. You have massive amounts of mobility and it should make the game easy. Right?

                WRONG. This game is never easy. NEVER.  The shotgun should be a weapon of mass destruction, and it is. But it has a substantial kick back. Don’t fire it by cliffs. You’ll fall and possibly die, or into some spikes. And die. Or, because the bullets fly across the level, sometimes there’s a shop keeper on the other side, who will freak out if you hit him and make it his life mission to kill you. The jetpack is great, but it’s a bit hard to control. I often times fly into enemies. Or spikes. And die. Sometimes you just don’t notice the arrow trap on the other side of the level, so I’m running along and then get shot right in the face.

                Or, there was the time an arrow trap was positioned right in front of the door of the shop. Some monster just happened to be in front of the arrow trap, which set it off and caused the arrow to hit the shopkeeper. Who decided this was MY fault, even though I just started the level at the top of the map, and he was at the bottom. ARGH.

I'd like to show you levels beyond Area 2, but I can't even get to them.

                The only downside of this game is that it has local co-op. I’d prefer online. But I played this co-op and it was even more chaotic and difficult. So maybe that’s a good thing, but I would prefer to suffer through this with my friends who are too far away to play with locally.

                Otherwise, I highly recommend this game if you’d like to try out a fast pace action rogue-like-esque game with a high level of difficulty. If you’re okay with feeling frustrated, and like to practice a game until you get better, you will enjoy this game. If you like an old school experience with the old school difficulty, you will like this game.

                If you already have it, how far can you get? Are you stubborn like me and refuse to use the level short cuts? Got any hilarious death stories to share? Leave a comment and let me know!

Monday, October 8, 2012

qrth-phyl




                Does anyone remember the old standard issue cell phone game Snake? It used to come with almost every new cell phone that had a little digital screen on it. You controlled a little line, called a snake, as you navigated a 2-D plane in search of little dots, called apples. When you ate the apples your body would grow longer and longer and if you bumped into your body you lost. You would also lose if you hit a wall. Future versions of the game had different variations of this simple premise.

                Enter the XBL Indie Game qrth-phyl made by hermitgames, released on Sept 9th 2012. The game bills itself as an “Arcade documentary of maze/dot/snake mechanic within changing dimensions”. Most of that makes sense, with the exception of the documentary part. The website doesn’t do much to alleviate my confusion, stating that “The game plays in 3D, is adaptive and fuses elements of documentary.” I… I guess I’ll just forget about the documentary part of it.

                One of the first things I noticed about the game is that there is no tutorial. This isn’t too big of a deal, because the game is laid out simply enough. You move your little snake around with the left control stick on a flat plane and collect dots, which make you grow longer the more you eat. The first level has no obstacles for you to bump into, aside from yourself. When you eat enough dots, a square doorway opens up for you to guide yourself into. This takes you to the next level, where suddenly you’re traveling in a 3-D space, flying around. It was disorientating at first, but I quickly got used to it. I more had trouble with the fact that Y-Axis was set to inverted by default. I thanked God I could change it.

                The game continues to progress in this fashion, shifting between a 2-D planes 3-D ones. One plane has you free flying inside of a cube, the other has you traveling on the outside of a cube, which is sometimes a flat surface that flips around when you get to the edge. As for enemies there are green cubes that travel and grow like slow moving snakes, and the other are red cubes that appear and disappear at intervals. The entire time you need to keep collecting dots to grow, which will sometimes appear as you consume dots throughout the level. The objective is always to eat dots and not die until you make the gateway appear.

                As far as I could tell the game contains two items that you could collect. One is a green plus sign type thing that shoots lasers in four directions for a short duration, which you must avoid until they vanish. The other is a wavey blue thing that makes your snake short again and turns your body into dots which you can eat. This helps boost your score. The green one is usually easy to avoid, and doesn’t present too much of a challenge to avoid the lasers if you do happen to hit it.

                The graphics are very colorful. Normally it’s not difficult to figure out where you are and what’s going on, with the exception of the levels where you’re only dealing with the snake getting extremely long. Sometimes I had trouble seeing where I was going due to camera issues and being obscured by my own body. This issue only pops up during the free flying stages. Otherwise, the graphics are very nice, but I wouldn’t say I was blown away by them.

                The sound serves its purpose. I didn’t feel like I was enthralled by the music or that it was memorable, but I wasn’t rushing to put my TV on mute either. I wasn’t annoyed by the sound effects either.

                In summation I would say this is a good indie game if you liked Snake when it was more widely available. Its feature light, in the fact that there’s only one game play mode and a local high score list, so no comparing your scores with people around the world. Its difficulty scales nicely, and I never found myself being overly frustrated. I knew with practice and dedication I could get better. If this had a few more features (Global High Score at least) I could see it having a more lasting appeal to it. But 80 MS ($1) you’re not really taking a risk here, because there really is 1 dollar worth of entertainment here. 

Friday, October 5, 2012

Brimstone Review for the Xbox 360




On Sept 10th, 2012 a game was released on the Xbox Live Indie Game market called Brimstone by Punchbag Entertainment. It is a procedurally generated multiplayer hack ‘n slash dungeon crawler and a patch has already been released for it entitled “Heroes’ Might” on Sept 30th. How does Brimestone compare to the saturated rogue-like dungeon crawler market? Read on for my detailed review of the game.



Taking one look at a screenshot of the game and one can get a feel for what this game entails. It is a rogue-like game in the same vein of Diablo, with randomly generate dungeons to be explored and similarly themed loot to be acquired as well as enemies to be slain. There are no character classes to be picked from, but players can customize their character by assigning stat points and equipment to define their chosen play style. You can pick from four different avatars to further customize your character.

The game supports the means to have three different types of characters, as well as a blend between these character types if one choose. First is the melee fighter, with strength being their primary attribute to help boost melee damage. The second is a ranged fighter using a ranged attack and equipment to enhance their dexterity, all of which was just released in the new Heroes’ Might patch. The third is a magic base intelligence character, which initially has access to a fire spell, but can eventually find means to cast a holy based healing spell or an ice based frost spell. The two additional magic types were another thing added in the recent patch.

This initial offering presents a five level dungeon with four levels of difficulty. You can take your time to explore each floor, gaining experience and loot to improve your character, or you can run through each floor just looking for the stairs to find and kill the game’s boss. I liken this to doing Mephisto runs in end game Diablo II. Just do the quick runs to get to the boss on the final floor and get all the gear you can fit into you inventory so you can do the same thing over again on the higher difficulties levels. Personally I liked the setup for this. It feels like it takes one aspect of a dungeon crawler and turns it into its own, short burst type game.


One complaint I have about this game is that you can’t sell the gear you don’t need any more or trade it to your lower level friends. The developers expressed that they didn’t want people getting bogged down by selling gear and wanted to prevent duping through player trades. I can understand the trade argument, but as far as selling goes we still have to go into our inventory and discard those items. A developer absolutely does not have to conform to standards of other games and should be willing to try new things, but the pack rat in me regrets having to throw those old items away. Perhaps a crafting system which lets you break down items and use them to create new ones could alleviate this? The store in the game doesn’t really sell anything of note anyway, aside from occasional rare gems, so money sort of losses its purpose.

The controls are simple and do not cause frustration. I found myself hitting the shoulder buttons a lot, which brings up your stats and inventory menus, but that is mostly due to my itchy trigger fingers from my many years of gaming. The select button brings up a mini-map, which is actually a huge map that encompasses the middle of the screen and is a bit obtrusive… I would think making this a bit smaller and having it take up a corner of the screen might make it a bit more manageable.

Another great feature of the game is that it has multiplayer for up to 8 people via Xbox Live. For those of you familiar with this type of game, I don’t think I need to explain how vital a feature like this is. It is always so much more satisfying playing something like this online with friends. Now you can play with up to 7 other friends or random people online. Before the patch people could block the entrances to other rooms and stairs, but this has since been fixed.

This is Punchbag Entertainment’s first game in the Indie Market, and I would say it’s a success. The procedurally generated levels and loot and additional difficulties give the game great replay value, and the short dungeon only enhance this, making runs through the game feel more fun than a chore. Make sure to check it out if you get the chance, because at 80 Microsoft Points (1$) you are getting a great deal.


Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Weird Man and Sarcasm Boy Part II


                Frederick grabbed his tray and stood in line for lunch. Many of the kids around him chattered and buzzed around him about their days to one another. Frederick tried to block it out of his mind, and concentrated on the lunch ladies dropping ice cream scoops of slop onto his plate. First came the yellow, noodely scoop. Then came the  slimy green bean scoop. The brown scoop the school was trying to pass off as meat came last. Each scoop of terrifying food substitutes splattered onto his plate with a noise that reminded Frederick of the sounds that echoed out of his uncle’s bathroom late in the evenings when he comes home drunk.
                “What’s the matter,” the lunch lady said when she noticed Frederick’s expression. “Don’t have the appetite for the pre-approved generic school slop today?”
                Frederick raised his eyes from his tray up to the lunch lady. Her face looked like someone had stretched a real person’s face across giant toad’s head, and her voice croaked out of her mouth in similar fashion.  He was glad there were no flies buzzing around, because he wasn’t sure his stomach could handle it if he watched her fleck her tongue out at one and catch it.
                “No, this is just what I was hoping for,” he said. “I was sick of being hungry, and this sure did the trick.”
                The young man next to Frederick nudged him and asked him to keep moving. Frederick obliged, paid for his lunch, and walked into the cafeteria. All of the other students had sectioned each other off into specific clicks, all of which Frederick couldn’t find himself identifying himself with. The jocks were too preppy and into sports, and he was never fond of serious competition. The nerds had some common interest with him, but often took things to a degree he couldn’t fathom. The theatre kids, well, they were the theatre kids.
                Frederick had plans to sit by himself somewhere quiet when he noticed the substitute teacher from before sitting at a table by himself, writing in his notebook and not paying attention to the food gore he was putting into his mouth.
                Frederick put his tray down on the table opposite of the man.
                “Hey.”
                “Now what,” the man said, glancing up from his notebook for only a second. Frederick noticed he was sketching out comics, and not just writing.
                “I’m sorry about earlier. I was just kidding about the genitals thing. You just caught me off guard.”
                “That’s alright. You gave me something to write about, at least.”
                “Huh? Is that what you’re doing right now?”
                Frederick tried to get a better look at what the man was writing and could see it looked sort of like a super hero comic. The man threw his arms over the book and hissed.
                “For my eyes only, filthy man spawn!”
                “Oh. Uh. Okay.”
                The two sat in silence for a moment.
                “Can I at least ask what it’s about,” Frederick asked.
                “Weird Man.”
                “Huh?”
                “Weird Man. He’s not really a super hero, but he looks and acts like one. He doesn’t fight crime and he doesn’t solve problems, he just get into really weird situations.”
                “So he’s just a guy who runs around in a suit and harasses people?”
                The man shut his notebook.
                “It’s not like this is something I’m trying to get published or anything. It doesn’t have to make sense.”
                “If you wrote something about me, you at least have to let me see that part.”
                The man stared at his notebook for several moments and then sighed.
                “Alright, I guess. But just this part. And the name is Tom. Tom Jensen.”
                “Oh, I forgot to ask. It’s nice to meet you Mr. Jensen.”
                “No, just call me Tom. I don’t like to be referred to by my teacher name.”
                “Alright... Tom.”
                Tom opened the notebook to the page he had been working on and slid it across the table to Frederick.
                “Aren’t you going to eat any of that,” Tom said, when he noticed Frederick wasn’t eating his food.
                “I was saving it for when I needed to purge my body of poison, but you could have it if you want.”
                He pushed the tray towards Tom, who took it and started shoveling the food into his mouth without hesitation.
                “Thanks!”
                Frederick tried not to be sick and started reading the comic.